Tag Archives: RVing

Controlled Burn in Topeka Kansas

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After we left Kansas we drove north to the Topeka KOA. Directly south of home and open year round, this has become something of a constant in our travels. There’s not much to say about the Topeka KOA. It’s a nice rather typical KOA. It has a big red barn with a huge basement that can double as a storm shelter. Being Kansas that’s always a good thing to have. The staff and hosts are pleasant and accommodating. Everything works. Yet just when you think it couldn’t possibly be more predictable something wonderful happens. This KOA is on a creek edge and has large swaths left in native grass. Native grass needs fire to grow properly and we were treated to the delightful site of a controlled burn. Actually it was three controlled burns in three different fields. Each field was isolated by a wide wetted short dirt/grass road and they wisely waited until evening when there was no wind. They monitored everything carefully. We took great delight in watching from upwind.

Due to rain and the possibility of high winds and thunderstorms, the next day we stayed on in Topeka. We walked to burn site and checked the “damage” the second day. I wish we could be back in time to see it when the burnt area bursts into green and blooms. The third day we packed up and moved on in journey home.

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It looks very ominous but the propane tank is actually well back from the flames.

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The fire moved slowly in a thin line. There was no wind so it was all very controlled.

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After the burn, ashes and bare soil but this is tall grass prairie and so it will turn lush in green in very short order. Fire is required for the prairie to bloom.

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Prairie is a fire ecology and must burn to grow. Here you can see the wet edges the owners created to keep the burn where they wanted it. During the burn itself they constantly patrolled the boundaries to make sure the fire didn’t spread.

Big Hill Lake Campground, Kansas

We left spring behind when we left Fort Smith, Arkansas and arrived at Big Hill Lake Campground near Cherryvale, Kansas. Well spring was here because winter was over but the trees were bare and there no more lovely spring flowers in the grass. We pulled into the campground and picked a pretty spot with the lake in sight. One nice thing about this campground is it is one of those rare Army Corp of Engineer sites that has sewer hook ups. We had been here several times before because it is also one of the few campgrounds open early spring and late fall. We had skipped it on the way south last fall because of a Kansas blizzard and the cold. This stop there was no blizzard but it was really cold.

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We have been doing this traveling south for nine years now. Every time we hit bare trees and get close to home I start to feel anxious and depressed. Due to some very bad stuff that happened to me before I met my husband, no matter how happy I am to see my family and friends again, returning home means some of those bad memories come back. When I am traveling around the south the memories are far away and I feel totally relaxed, really myself. When I travel back north, those old things settle on me again. After a few days of being home I readjust my thinking and the sensation goes away but it hits full weight with the cold and the bare trees. There was no mistaking we were going home.

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I was cheered by two things. We found this tree in full bloom on a walk. I don’t know what kind it is but since the nearby town is called “Cherryvale” and scent made my nose itch I assume it is some sort of cherry. I am allergic to cherry and even as I enjoyed the scent, my eyes started watering and prickling with the beginning of swelling. I smelled the lovely scent again anyway. This is why antihistamines were invented. The tree was GLORIOUS.

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We also had some amusement with a pileated wood pecker. They nest at home in Manitoba so this fellow was probably on his own migration north. He was not giving off the wild monkey call they make in home territory when nesting. He seemed as curious about us as we were about him. He kept landing near our trailer and looking in at us. But every time my husband got his camera out, the bird would go around to the backside of a tree and hide. He would wait until he thought we forgot about him and then he would peek around to see if we were still looking. If hubby dearest had the camera out he would vanish again. If we had no camera he would come out in full sight and put on a show for us. The result was we only got this one crappy picture of him even though he was around a lot and we got to enjoy his glorious red colour and funny antics.

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When we were last at this campground, the little children’s park was being torn up and replaced. On this trip we found that the work had been completed. We checked out the playground and it had shredded old tire bits in a thick bouncy layer designed to cushion kids when they fall. This revamped park is obviously a favourite with the locals because several times carloads of kids arrived during the daytime and I got to listen to the chatter of happy children at play and watch moms minding their little ones. That brought back some sweet memories of my own time as a mother of young children and helped me chase off the blues. Misty was a big help too. No matter how down I am feeling she will not let me avoid going for a walk and giving her some attention and doing silly amusing dog things. Like almost all dogs she has learned to zero in on a sad mood and insist on cheering me up. You just can’t stay sad and feeling sorry for yourself around canine enthusiasm for life.

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One of the new playground structures in Big Hill Campground Kansas resembles a dream catcher.

Just as it began to warm up, the weather forecast called for more severe storms. Big Hill Lake is just east of Joplin, Missouri and there are definitely times you don’t want to be in some parts of Kansas so we left after two days to head north. Topeka would put us out of range of the severe storms and there is a KOA campground up there with a great storm shelter where we have stayed before. It was time to continue north.

 

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Springhill Campground, Arkansas

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This stay illustrated why I HATE making reservations. We arrived at the Springhill campground and pulled into our site. On our trip we heard that there was going to be severe weather north and west of us. The system for reservations means you have book at least three days in advance. Three days ago there was no prediction of storms. I asked if we could stay on for two more days. I was told no because the site we were in was booked for the next two days after ours but the next one over was open. I had to come by Friday morning to register. The volunteers on duty did not have access to the computers and could not book us into that site. I asked the fellow next door and he said he planned on staying in his site for two more days because of the bad weather. The next campsite over was empty and marked “walk up, first come first serve”. We awoke early to a gorgeous dawn and we moved over to that empty campsite. I then drove my bike over to the office to pay.

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The view we drove into where our first campsite was.

Only two weeks ago at a different campground we had checked into the office first, paid for a nice site on the water, and then drove in to find someone already there. They had passed us while we were at the office. We returned to the office and were told, sorry, first on the site gets it. I got to the office here to discover that in this campground, it isn’t first on the site. It goes to whoever shows up first at the office! Another woman saw us move in so she went to the office immediately while we were moving and she waited to make sure she was first into the office by ten minutes. (I was third in line and waited outside the tiny office.) I was informed there was nothing that could be done about it. That woman had registered for the walk up site first so she got it. We had to move a second time. I could have taken the site of our next door neighbour because he hadn’t arrived yet to pay. I would never ever do that to someone else. I felt THAT was a despicable trick and a terrible thing to do. To say I was furious was an understatement. I drove my bike back and we moved again to the only free site, a narrow short site not on the water and far from any washroom or shower. This why I absolutely HATE making reservations. People play the system to make your life hard, the reservations force you onto someone else’s schedule, and then reservations rob you of the flexibility to stay on if the weather turns bad. We once had reservations and then a break down and we lost the cost of one night at a very expensive resort campground near Niagra Falls. We had to boondock outside the gate, because we arrived too late and they locked the gate, and in the morning they not only refused to give us a refund but wouldn’t even let us shower before we continued our trip because we were only booked for one night.

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Flowers in the grass.

The third night at Springhill those severe storms rolled through from the southwest to the southeast exactly as predicted. We were safe in our third campsite. I fell asleep once the radar was clear, fantasizing about sneaking over in the thunderstorm and flattening all the tires on nasty woman’s fifth wheel. It was only a fantasy. In reality, I always leave such things to karma. It has yet to fail me. Besides, I am deathly afraid of storms and even if the severe stuff was past, there was still a lot of lightning. After the front went through, there was a harsh cold high wind and low temperatures the next day so except for one long walk and two short doggy walks, we stayed inside. I made a crock pot of Italian minestrone soup and some fresh buns.

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As always, karma came through for me. The people who had handled the reservations were just as bothered by the nasty woman’s treatment of us as I was. They stopped me and told me that the nasty woman had showed up again claiming I had taken revenge on her by deliberately leaving dog poop in the site. He went to investigate her complaint and discovered the poop was actually fresh Canada goose poop. Her husband had not noticed the goose poop on his shoes and tracked it all over the rugs inside their fancy fifth wheel. I felt much better about life after a few good snickers over that. We left Arkansas behind with some regret. It is a beautiful place and I will miss it and I hope my karma allows me to get back to Arkansas again.

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Map of our trek across Arkansas

West Through Arkansas to Maumelle (Little Rock)

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We drove from Granada Lake only 40 miles (with a detour due to a bridge being out) in order to reach the George Wallace Campground on Enid Lake. Watching the weather, we decided to stay put for three more nights in Mississippi to give the north time to drain a bit. We spent those three days much as we had at Grenada Lake. We biked, we walked, we enjoyed the sunshine. Meanwhile north of us floods were happening all over Nebraska and the entire state was green with flood warnings on the NOAA site. By our third day the flood waters were starting to arrive in the Memphis area so it was time to leave.

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Our campsite in George Wallace Campground on Lake Enid

We decided to avoid the misery of the nightmare of crossing the Mississippi at Memphis. We planned our escape by going over Old Man River at Helena West and then traveling north west and meeting up with the I-40 as it follows the Arkansas River in the valley. I was expecting a few of Arkansas’ famous steep hills and a workout for my transmission. I was pleasantly surprised to find the road was not only lacking steep hills but it was in good repair. After crossing east through the two major Louisiana east west interstates it was a real pleasure. From now on, I cross that stretch through Arkansas.

We arrived at the Maumelle, Arkansas and pulled into our reserved campsite. We normally hate making reservations because it robs us of flexibility but Maumelle is a very busy place. Part of the reason for that is many of the campsites are reserved for people staying in Little Rock for medical treatment. They are long term sites. We met one little girl whose family had been living there for two years of schooling for her. We saw a lot of people with no hair and that thin ghastly look that so often comes with chemotherapy. It is a good thing they have a nice place to stay that must feel supportive of them as they get treatment for their disease.

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Our Maumelle Campground site near Little Rock, Arkansas

The weather report promised one day of rain with thunderstorms. We were under a severe thunderstorm watch overnight our first night. None actually came close to us but one storm did decide to drop a big chunk of hail. It hit smack on one of our vent covers. The vent cover was already sun crazed so the result was exploded plastic all over the roof. We discovered we had rain coming in just as we got into bed. A quick check of the radar showed that thunderstorm had passed but another was coming. So we quickly dressed and my husband spotted me as I got up on the roof. He passed me a cover from a big storage box that fit over the vent and then one of our 2″X10″X6′ levelling boards and I laid that on top to keep the cover in place. Just as we got back inside, the rain started pouring again but our quick temporary fix worked.

The next morning we made a fast trip to a nearby RV place to get a replacement and then I installed it. We had a lot to be grateful. The wrecked vent was right next to the bathroom sunroof which would have been a lot more expensive and a lot more difficult to replace. The break happened when we were parked so we knew right away instead of driving all day and arriving to a soaked interior. Last, the break happened near a big city with a well stocked RV store. On the same trip we made a short stop at a laundromat since our portable machine had died.

We enjoyed three lovely days of relaxing walks, extended periods writing, napping, and appreciating warm T shirt weather. It was then time to continue our journey home by leaving for the Springhill Campground, Barling, near Fort Smith Arkansas.

 

Greneda Lake Mississippi

We ended up spending a week in the Army Corp of Engineer’s North Abutment (Grenada Lake) Campground. We initially pulled in for three nights but we were concerned about the news coming out of Nebraska. As we watched one heartbreaking report after of Nebraska flooding another the thing that really stood out was that I-29, the main highway we take to go home, was closed. Between us and our location in central/west Mississippi was the Missouri. The flooding Missouri was blocking our trip home. We discussed it at length and spoke to our dear friend who minds our house and we decided to play it safe extend our trip. By staying south a few days more we could avoid the mess up north and avoid becoming part of their problems.

After our first three nights we moved to a full hookup site for four more nights giving us a full week on Grenada Lake. The weather was sunny and cool. We had several days of brisk winds that stirred up the lake turning the water to brown. Even so we were able to go for nice long walks in the sunshine, ride our bikes around the campground and relax. Once nice thing was the cooler weather meant an end to the horrid biting bugs that had left me covered with welts in Alabama. It was blessedly stable uneventful weather after dodging tornados in Alabama. We made one trip into Grenada to see the historic mainstreet (which was not work the trip except for a neat local grocery store full of all kinds of fascinating stuff like pickled whole pig’s feet). Again, we were delighted by wildflowers, migrating songbirds, egrets and herons and for some reason more turtles than I have ever seen in one place. Somehow we never did get a picture of the turtles but we saw them sunning everywhere. I wish I could adequately describe how soul refreshing it is to stay in such a lovely location and enjoy such absolutely perfect weather with no pressure to be anywhere or do anything. I even baked bagels and pumpernickel bread one day it was so relaxed.

On our second night we were alarmed to note that the road on top of the dam was closed because of how high the water in Grenada Lake was. The local authorities were running golf carts up and down around the clock watching for leaks in case the levee broke. The locals did not seem concerned and our campsite was above the levee so we decided to stop worrying too and that was when I baked. On our last day, the wind finally calmed and we went for a long overdue canoe ride. The lake was twenty feet above flood stage. There was a small creek and the forest around it totally inundated. We were actually able to canoe into the forest and see tree tops of shorter trees and get far up the trunks of mighty evergreens. That was a really interesting perspective.

Our reservations were up and it was a really busy looking for the weekend at this campground. We had already decided to alter our trip home by going through the Arkansas’s I-40 interstate following the non flooding Arkansas river. That about the flattest road in mountainous Arkansas. We planned on exploring some of the many Federal campgrounds along that route. We could then avoid the lower Missouri flooding which was now moving out of Nebraska and towards Mississippi right through our original planned route home. We were pleased to read that the I-29 was now mostly openly and if we took our time, it would hopefully be clear for us to drive home.  Those Arkansas campgrounds were really busy because they were all booked up for the weekend. We made reservations for the trip through Arkansas but we were still left with three nights in Mississippi before we could take advantage of the reservations. We decided to move north again and stop for three nights near Memphis Tennessee at the Army Corp of Engineer’s Enid Lake campground. And so we said goodbye to Grenada Lake and headed north.

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Misty had great fun with a friend she made at our second campsite. This little guy was actually faster than her. We don’t meet a lot of dogs who can outrun her but this boy sure could.

Forkland, Alabama

We left Miller’s Ferry reluctantly and with some concern about the weather. Yet another storm system was barrelling through the south with the threat of tornados, high winds and other misery. The predictions for the north were much worse. After the time we had spent lingering in southern Alabama I was looking at the calendar with no small amount of concern. We had to start making time north if we were to get home before our health insurance ran out but this storm system looked even worse than the last one. So we decided to move as far north as we could and still be outside the severe weather zone. We also decided to stay three nights which would allow the system to pass us and clear further north.

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Gorgeous Red Bud in bloom everywhere.

We arrived in Forkland Alabama Army Corp of Engineer campground to a nice surprise. Each of these campgrounds has a flavour to it. We had been to Forkland before but the flavour was nondescript woods. This time it was glorious spring and the wildflowers were in full bloom. As if that was not pleasant enough, a full on eruption of migrating songbirds meant the campground was positively thronged with red headed woodpeckers, blue birds, finches and warblers. And third, a storm of delightful whimsical art had hit the place. All over, stumps of wrecked trees had been transformed into birds and animals and mushrooms. The whimsy was positive, friendly and lovely. And so we settled in to a wonderful spacious campsite with our own dock not far from the washroom/shower/tornado shelter.

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There was one downside to our arrival. The campground host warned us that they had recently had a huge number of rattlesnakes appear. From his description, my guess is they have a wintering place nearby and they had awoken and spread around the campsite to warm and then disperse. Garter snakes do this back home so we have a brief spell of little snakes everywhere. I had done my best to train Misty that little garter snakes were terrible and she needed to stay away from them. I didn’t know if the training would transfer to the rattlers if she encountered one nor if she would recall training from the year before. We were careful never to let her out of the trailer without first inspecting the site and if we went out at night we always had a flashlight and checked where we walked. We did not see a single snake.

The storm system rolled in as forecast on our second day and we were once again watching the radar and checking the warnings. We seemed to have a sweet spot and storms raged north and west of us. As the system got closer a tornado watch was announced and the campground host stopped in to make sure we knew the washroom had a central reinforced room that doubled as a tornado shelter. At one point we were under a severe thunderstorm warning but I could see on the radar we were only in it because of the placement of the county border and the storm was going to miss us so we stayed in the trailer. We heard a lot of thunder and lightning to the north as it rolled by but that was all. We were safe. I was very concerned about the huge mess to the north, especially Nebraska and Iowa where most of the states were in a flood warning but we were fine in.

We spent our days again taking long walks, and many training walks with our Misty. The campground was actually crowded with lots of little kids and so we had plenty of opportunity to practice sitting nicely while children pet you and not barking your head off like an idiot and yanking the leash every which way when passing another dog. Misty did very well. We had one comical episode. A woman there had three long hair “teacup” chihuahuas who got loose and charged at Misty. Her reaction was hysterically funny. She froze and then slowly put her head down while these three little dogs, each one just the size of her head, barked furiously and acted like they were going to attack her. She was just bemused. Her reaction seemed to be “What are you?” I was very proud of her. Everyone around was laughing and laughing as the owner ran around trying to scoop them up while they dodged her and kept up their empty threats against Misty. Eventually we just walked away while she continued to ineffectively call, try to scoop, and get frustrated. People, train your dogs! I couldn’t help but think how one of those dogs would have been a nice meal for a rattlesnake.

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Many army cops of engineers campsite include private little docks and Forkland is no exception. These steps from our campsite led to our own little dock. Unfortunately flood water meant the dock was underwater and the swiftness of the flow with debris meant we didn’t get to put the canoe in the water.

After the third day amid alarming flood reports coming out of Nebraska, we left our site and headed off to our next stop, Lake Grenada area of Mississippi.

Millers Ferry Campground

This campground is my absolute favourite of all the Army Corp of Engineer campsites we have been to. The sites are especially well maintained, the campground is in the bend of a lake with a lot of lovely sites right on the water. The bathrooms are neat and clean and they have a laundry. We got a very nice site right near the water. Then we saw a six foot alligator so we made very sure our dog could not go anywhere near the water. One rather interesting thing they have is huge bamboo clumps. Some of them were thicker than a man’s forearm and three stories tall. I know they are considered an invasive nonnative plant but I still like the look of them.

There is a neat little marina across the water that had the best homemade burgers. Again we went walking every day several times a day, training walks with the dog and long bike rides. Dick finally found a real old fashioned bamboo fishing rod and he bought it. We also made a side trip to the nearby dam to see the rapids.

And of course wildflowers and birds. Lots and lots of cardinals, blue birds, assorted sparrows, chickadees, and more than one bald eagle. And every day egrets, white pelicans and Canada geese in the water. We have been to Miller’s Ferry Campground three times now and each time has been a pleasure.

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